A California surfer must have had the surprise of her life when she was paddling over to two kayakers barely a quarter-mile from the beach -- and narrowly avoided being swallowed by a humpback whale:
Video of the amazing near-miss has gone viral since its posting on YouTube Wednesday, garnering nearly a half-million views.
Some have questioned its veracity but Barb Roettger, who captured the whole thing, insists its the real deal. She told the San Jose Mercury News she was just out with a friend in a kayak, taking pictures with a regular -- non-waterproof -- camera and had it recording when the two (yes, two) massive creatures suddenly surfaced.
The video was posted with the following description:
A woman floating on a surfboard near Santa Cruz, California almost ended up on the lunch menu for a humpback whale over the weekend. Barb Roettger had her camera rolling as two hefty whales popped out of the calm waters not far from the unsuspecting surfer and a pair of kayakers.
A pod of humpback whales has been hanging out off the Santa Cruz coast, noshing on anchovies that flock to the area to feed on plankton. The woman found herself in the middle of a feeding frenzy called lunge feeding, which occurs when whales herd anchovies and shoot straight up out of the water with their mouth wide open to catch the fish.
The whales have had quite a few dangerous close encounters with humans and boats in recent months. Whale watchers are warned to stay at least 100 yards away from the feeding area. Roettger says she has now gained a greater respect for whales, their feeding patterns and will now only spectate from the decidedly safer dry land.
"I will never be going out there ever again to purposefully watch them," Roettger told the News. "It just got so out of hand it wasn't fair to the whales."